Fauré: Romances sans paroles

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

I have previously praised Jean-Pierre Bartoli’s new scholarly-critical performing editions of Fauré’s piano music from Bärenreiter, reviewing the Pavane Op.50 and the Five Impromptus when they appeared.

The latest arrival in this growing series is a new edition of the Trois Romances sans paroles, which like its predecessors is based on the musical text from Bärenreiter’s Oeuvres Complètes de Gabriel Fauré edition of 2020.

These pieces are wonderful Romantic piano miniatures, accessible to players at advanced level around UK Grade 8, so let’s consider this new addition to the Pianodao Music Library

Fauré’s “Songs Without Words” are his earliest piano pieces, composed around 1863/64, yet remain among his most gorgeous and accessible. Though not published until 1880, they were nevertheless also the first to appear in print.

With these pieces, Fauré follows in the steps of their obvious models, Mendelssohn’s hugely popular “Lieder one Worte”, whilst at the same time enrolling into the French tradition of the “Romances” penned by such composers as Thalberg, Gounod and Bizet.

In common with these forebears, the three pieces are all led by lyrical melody lines accompanied by flowing accompaniments that also borrow from the harmonic language of Robert Schumann.

Here they are performed by Kathryn Stott, courtesy of Sony Music:

In his detailed historical introduction to the pieces, editor Bartoli notes,

The quality of Bärenreiter’s scores hardly needs further comment, having endeared themselves with so many of the world’s leading musicians. The score enjoys Bärenreiter’s superlative presentation, with outstanding clarity and generous spacing:

This new urtext edition as expected takes all available sources into account, including the recording that the composer himself made of the third Romance in 1908 on Welte pneumatic piano rolls.

Uniquely, the edition also includes the first version of the the Romance No.3 as an appendix, interesting for its variants on the better-known text, and for its historical value.

The editor’s Introduction adds further value, with a section on performance practice that considers Fauré’s own recordings, as well as extant testimony of his playing. This is presented in French, English and German, while the three-page Critical Commentary to the rear of the book is in English only in the review copy.

These delightful pieces are, like much of Fauré’s piano work, too little known.

We must hope that the arrival of this beautifully presented but affordable new edition from Bärenreiter will extend interest and lead to a long overdue upsurge in their performance.

Fully as expected, this is another outstanding release from Bärenreiter.

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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based in Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.